Archive for the ‘pop culture’ category

Who Needs The Sorting Hat?

July 22, 2016

Here’s a little story to leaven the gloom cast by Nuremberg on the Cuyahoga*…

…I’d guess it’s kind of intuitive, but now we can point to Science! as we divide our fellow Americans into their respective Hogwarts houses.

Trump supporter: Slytherin

The_Sorcerer_poster_with_Marmaduke_and_Sangazure_(1884_revival)

Those who recognize Trump’s cousinhood w. he who must not be named, and that Godwin fellow too — off you go.  It’s Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Gryffendor, as your particular talents and qualities lead you.  [via Lenika Cruz at The Atlantic]:

a forthcoming study from the journal PS: Political Science and Politicsmakes a better case for how lessons learned from fiction can influence people’s political preferences. The researcher Diana Mutz, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, found that Harry Potter book readers are actually more inclined to dislike Trump. This was the case even after Mutz controlled for variables such as age, education, gender, party identification, evangelical identification, and ideology.

The key question here is the arrow of causality, which is what Mutz’s study attempts to study.  As Cruz notes in her write up,

There will always be limits to the usefulness of comparing real people to fictional characters. And so far, there has been only one other empiricalstudy exploring the political impact of reading Harry Potter (unlike Mutz, the researchers didn’t control for important factors such as political ideology.)

But it seems less specious to argue that the bestselling book series of all time could instill values that affected how its readers—especially its younger fans—now think about the world.

I’m not going to depend on my mastery of a Riddikulusspell to deal with the real and deadly serious menace of the Republican nominee.  But perhaps maybe the long-view approach to helping our Trump-dazed Wingnut-American fellow citizens is to hand them a book.  (Or even better, the magnificent audio books for those long, dark, nighttime journeys of the soul.)

A boy can dream.

*Stolen from somewhere on the ‘Tubes, but I can’t remember where.  Apologies to the author…

Image: poster for a revival of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Sorcerer1884.

Kung Fu Pope v. Big Carbon

June 13, 2015

Via Slate, I came across this little bit of video:

Per Eric Holtas in Slate, this is the brainchild of some delightfully twisted Brazilian climate change activists.
My favorite shot?  Dawn-backlit papal Tai-Chi exercise.  IOW:  just watch this.
PS — the soundtrack could/should have been Inhofe and Santorum skull detonations.

Because I Love You

December 3, 2014

Working on a bunch of stuff, so almost no time to blog, but in eavesdropping on a Twitter conversation about the various awesomenesses of the Scots, combined with the lethal power of bagpipes, I came across this:

It seems to me we could use — certainlly can — a daily leaven of the absurd to help confront the weight of all the stupid/evil that so dominates the rap, Jack, these days.

You can thank me later.

 

For A Good Time In Cambridge: Coco Fusco, Junot Diaz, Ian Condry Edition

October 22, 2013

Hey, all — or at least all of you in reasonable range of Cambridge, MA (Our Faire City).  Day after tomorrow, Thursday, October 24, will see writer, performer and curator Coco Fusco talking at MIT, in an evening moderated by my colleagues, novelist Junot Diaz and Cool Japan majordomo Ian Condry.

The event begins at 5 and 7 p.m in MIT’s Media Lab rm 633. Details and map here.

Fusco’s title, “A Performance Approach to Primate Politics” leads to the meat of her talk — which investigates what “Planet of the Apes” (the original) was really talking about.

Apes_in_a_persimmon-tree

Smart people taking on the world at an angle.  Should be fun.

Image: Mori Sosen, Apes in a Persimmon Tree, before 1821

Eye Candy Is Bad For You…

November 25, 2012

…But Oh. So. Tasty.

I’ve been conspicuous (or not) by my absence, I know, and will probably continue to be so for a while, as daily life does what it does so well.

But I’ve been collecting a few odds and ends that this crowd might enjoy, so I thought I’d offer them up as a peace offering until I can post something that actually has some substance to it.  Think of this as the third cotton candy stick you got as a kid, just before it all went pear shaped at the top of the Tilt-O-Whirl.

First up, via DKos, a truly delightful take on a song that my son has not let me escape in months (Ah, the joys of being well into middle age, and being schooled by your 12 y.o.)  Apparently, the thing is authentically what it alleges itself to be, the Royal Engineers living the pop life in somewhat forbidding circumstances:

watch?v=K-ZFKU2O1Zk

Via Daily Kos, here’s a US Army version, equally…how to put it…charming:

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I’ll leave it to y’all to decide which side of the Atlantic wins this battle of bands.

But I can say that my beloved uncle, a career officer in the Royal Artillery, warned me about those engineering boys.*

Which advice allows me to partake of the “not-quite-500-miles-away”** school of segues to take you to one of the latest effusions  from a noted engineering school — one that produced what, to my admittedly biased view, is the best of the exploding universe of Gangnam Style parodies.

Which is to say, here is the MIT version.  Watch for the cameos — I’m not sure I’ll ever think about genomics in quite the same way after seeing Eric Lander’s performance.  But the capper is one  I’ll let you discover, if your eyeballs aren’t already bleeding at the thought of yet more PSY coming your way.

watch?v=lJtHNEDnrnY

Oh, and open thread too.

*not intended to be a factual statement

**The not-quite-500-miles-away” segue was the term of art applied to the habit of the BBC programme Panorama to feign a link between two segments by saying something on the order of “Not 500 miles away from where Joe Bloggs was trapped in a death embrace with his pet python, Mary Scroggs paused, startled, while watering her petunias.”  Or some such.

For A Good Time On The ‘Tubes (Self Aggrandizement Alert)

August 29, 2012

Just a quick heads up for fans of smart (I hope) talk.  In just about an hour, at 5 p.m. EDT (10 GMT, 2 PDT) I’ll be trading views with science writer Jennifer Ouellete (AKA Jen-Luc Piquante), proprietor among much else of Cocktail Party Physics, which gig gives me the excuse for this pic:

The conversation will take place over at my more or less regular monthly gig on Virtually Speaking Science.  Listen live or later here. Alternatively, come join the virtually live audience in Second Life.  Podcasts of VSS, including the work of my co-host, Alan Boyle, can also be downloaded at the iTunes store.  Lots of back issues there — of particular current interest, you might check out my conversations with climate scientist Michael Mann; science studies scholar Naomi Oreskes, and science journalist and “framing” advocate Chris Mooney.

Jennifer and I will be leaping off from the impulse that led her to write her most recent book, The Calculus Diaries. That’s her account of being an admitted math-phobe coming to grips with the beauty and practical value of what is truly one of the handful of greatest human inventions ever.  As I blurbed for her — calculus allows one to think rigorously about change in time and space; it just doesn’t get bigger than that, really.

We’ll go from the book to the latest kerfluffle about what kinds of math should be taught in school (see the algebra controversy sparked by this piece. For a good reply, see this.)  More broadly we’ll use the question of how to present the actual importance of thinking mathematically in everyday circumstances to think out loud a bit about an issue that is bugging me more and more these days.  To put it in personal terms — I’ve been doing science writing/film making for public audiences for just about 30 years now.  Looking at the convention of one of our major political parties in which that party declares its denial of anthropogenic climate change, evidence based medicine, investments in science education and research and so on and on and on (without even going into the anti-evolution lunacy, nor the pseudo-science with which it justifies government regulation of ladyparts and … you get the picture) — looking at all that and more, it’s depressingly easy to conclude that my career has been a net negative.

Yes, I know, correlation is not cause, which is why some of us still believe that milk drinking does not  lead to heroin addiction. But really, for all that we live in something of a golden age of popular science writing and communication other media, it is past time, in my ever-so-humble opinion, to think about what, if anything, we should be doing to reach a mass audience we clearly have not fully attracted, much less persuaded.

Finally, Jennifer is near the end of a book that has proved much more challenging to write than she blithly thought going in.  I’m just starting a book I’m convinced I have got under control. (Thus every folly begins, in innocent confidence…) So we’re going to talk just a bit of shop:  how every book project trips you up, and what you can do about that terrible moment when you are finally, utterly, deeply certain that you computer is going to reach through the display and throttle you; just put you out of your and everyone else’s misery.

Should be fun.  Check it out when and as you have a notion.

PS:  As a DEW — Sunday, September 9, 8 p.m. EDT, 6 p.m. MT, I’ll be talking one of my old books, Measure for Measure: A Musical History of Science with the incomparable Desiree Schell on Skeptically Speaking. I’ve been on the show once before as a guest of Marie-Claire Shanahan, and it was a lot of fun.  Desiree is a fabulous interviewer, so I’m looking forward to this one too. But it’s relevant to the post above, if only because the book that both nearly killed me and most taught me to write was Measure…in which I succumbed to what I have decided is the dreaded second book syndrome.  More to come…

Image: Edgar Degas, L’absinthe, 1876

Do Not Get Out Of The Boat

September 28, 2011

Daily Kos has recently posted what may be the most eyeball-melting, brain corroding wingnut rap ever.  I’m not going to embed it here.  It’s that bad.  Don’t go watch it if you value any illusions you may yet possess about the possibility of the advance of civilization.  Any action you take from here — on you, my brothers and sisters.

The barbarians over at the GOS even had the sadist’s delight in getting this up at 6 p.m. Eastern time — dinner, or, for me and my family, the start of the new year observances that focus on the contemplation of the twelve months just past.

Talk about harshing one’s mellow.  Seriously, that’s a vid that could curdle any supply of milk within parsecs.

All of which leads to the question:  what is it about wingnuttery that yields such dire, humorless, dispiriting simulacrums of art.  Hell — not even art, but entertainment?  Even the merest of pleasures?

We did not deserve this.

Image:  Adriaen Pietersz van de Venne,  Altogether Too Stupid, (a peasant woman gets her wits sharpened on the knife-grinder’s whetstone as other are drawn in by the miracle cure), before 1662.  I know I’ve used this one before — but damn, it’s on point.


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